January 21, 2017

Peter's principle

§ quotes     # peter dilbert management quotes

I’m sure you have heard about Peter’s principle, if not the name then the principle:

In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

and the corollary:

In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.

But what struck me recently is that I didn’t know how old this principle was. It was first published in 1969! And of course this is not the first time this idea surfaced. In 1910, a Spanish philosopher wrote:

All public employees should be demoted to their immediately lower level, as they have been promoted until turning incompetent.

There are more similar thoughts going back as far as XVIII century!

Peter’s principle has also inspired the Dilbert’s principle formulated in 1995 by Scott Adams:

Leadership is nature’s way of removing morons from the productive flow

Here is how Adams explained it:

I wrote The Dilbert Principle around the concept that in many cases the least competent, least smart people are promoted, simply because they’re the ones you don’t want doing actual work. You want them ordering the doughnuts and yelling at people for not doing their assignments—you know, the easy work. Your heart surgeons and your computer programmers—your smart people—aren’t in management. That principle was literally happening everywhere.

— `If you knew Time as well as I do,' said the Hatter, `you wouldn't talk about wasting IT. It's HIM.'
$ Last updated: Feb 7, 2021 at 13:38 (EET) $